Shockvertising: The New Social Change Campaign

Business Insider defines “shockvertising” as “ads made to shock their way into your memory by way of gruesome violence, over-the-top-sexuality, or other taboo-shredding imagery.” Many countries around the world have been using “shockvertising” to gain attention towards social issues. Social justice is not the hottest trending topic, but its messages succeed in reaching audiences through this method. The high emotional impact from “shockvertising” pulls the heartstrings, therefore leaving them to reflect on the message.

This is a successful, because audiences feel intimately connected to a message. The “shockvertisement” portrays issues that happen in the world everyday. It challenges us to take action. On the other hand, “shockvertising” can be too intense. The content can be overly exaggerated to a point where audiences may turn away before reading the tagline or caption. After looking at an image, it may be too late before someone sees the cause it is advocating for.

Let’s analyze a few.
Crisis Relief Singapore released this photo “Liking isn’t helping.” in 2013. In today’s society, we discover and share current events through social media. You’ll have a friend share a link to a story, and it is too easy to hit the “Like” button. A person can share the news, but how many of us actually go beyond that? How many of us actually decide to help and take action? Accompanied by the small child, this message is even more affective. Most people do have a soft spot for children and babies. The sight of the young one pulls people’s attention, and I admit that it is hard to look at for a long time without wanting to turn away. It is not sugarcoated. This is real. This is a successful “shockvertisement” compared to others.

This next one I immediately turned away, but I forced myself to fully take it in and analyze it. A decapitated Santa is a very horrifying image –not only because he holds such positive spirits for Christmas—because it’s literally a head, with blood on the beard, unattached to its body. It’s gross. It’s gruesome. It’s something we don’t expect to see on a daily basis. An Italian advertising agency (from what I could research) launched this campaign to persuade people to investing money into advertising. “Don’t Cut A Dream” first appeared in 2009. In this “shockvertisement,” Santa symbolizes a dream – something people look forward to. This I consider to be really ineffective. It does succeed in shocking the audience, but it is too harsh. In addition, their message is poorly designed and placed. It’s hard to connect dreams to a decapitated Santa. It does not communicate their goal.

2 thoughts on “Shockvertising: The New Social Change Campaign

  1. This was a very original topic that I think deserves more attention. I find the concept of shockvertising very intriguing and, when done right, it can be very effective. I feel like there are a lot of common themes in advertisements nowadays that many companies use that, after a while, can be boring and unmemorable. With the amount of ads we see on a daily basis, I believe the only way to really be successful is to have an ad that forces people to pay attention. So in that regard, I think shockvertising is very effective because it grabs people’s attention, and it will make them talk about the ad with others. That being said, I believe there is a limit to its effectiveness. An ad that goes too far and is overly violent or otherwise disturbing will be poorly received and criticized One example of that would be this Australian ad promoting staying in school:


  2. I agree with tlawdan that shockvertising can be very effective if done correctly. The advertisement needs to clearly list where to find more information or how to take action. Although a view may have felt very affected by the advertisement, they may not know how to take the next step.

    The one downfall I see to shockvertising is it being overdone. If the majority of ads use shockvertising, is it shocking anymore?


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